Monday of Week 1 of Advent – First Reading

Commentary on Isaiah 2:1-5 and Isaiah 4:2-6 in Year A

Now that we are entering the season of Advent, we are making our preparations to welcome the coming of the Son of God among us as one of us. The Child, born in such obscure surroundings, will become the Light of the Nations.

Our First Reading is taken from the early part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, as will be the case for much of the Advent season. Depending on the Church Year (A,B or C), the verses will come from one of two sections in Isaiah. This commentary reflects on the verses starting with Isaiah 2:1. It begins with the lovely prophecy:

In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”

In the ancient Near East, temples were seen as the places where gods lived. Frequently too, temples were built on the tops of mountains. Isaiah is primarily thinking of the Temple in Jerusalem to which he sees peoples from all over coming to pay homage to the one true God. For us, of course, at this season we are thinking of the Temple of the New Covenant, which is the Incarnate Word of God.

Eventually, he will be raised up in glory and, in a very different sense, will be:

…highest of the mountains
and shall be raised above the hills.

And his is a Temple to which over the centuries “all the nations shall stream to it”. Who would ever have thought, in those early days of Christianity, that the fellowship would one day number more than two billion people? Such a number which was not in any vocabulary in those days!

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

In this context, Mount Zion and Jerusalem are one and the same.

After the disciples of Jesus were filled with his Spirit, following the resurrection and glorification of Jesus, the word of the Lord did begin to go out from Jerusalem until it spread to every corner of the world. Jerusalem is no longer the centre, because wherever there are Christian communities, there is the Temple, the very presence of the Risen Christ. And the message that is going out is the message of love and peace. A message that has been heard by many, but needs to be heard a lot more.

He shall judge between the nations
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation.

Indeed there are nations which have gone a long way to being havens of peace and justice and which have reduced their weapons to a minimum. Unfortunately, the arms industry still thrives and there are still many who think that only by violence can problems be solved.

As Christians we have a lot of work to do to bring the spirit of Christ and the Gospel into our world. To do that effectively we need to hear and respond to the invitation with which our reading closes:

O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!

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